St. Mary's Church Bells
Hitchin's Historic Bells
By Debbie Burstow
A rare opportunity to view St. Mary’s church bells has been afforded to the town recently as a result of renovation work being undertaken to the support structure for the bells, some of which have also been retuned.
The bells were placed in the North Aisle accompanied by notices detailing their age, weight and founders. Inscriptions on the bells chart both historic names and events as well as laudatory and edifying sentiments.
The oldest (and heaviest) of the bells are dated 1762 and were recast from six into eight by the St. Neot’s foundry of Joseph Eayre. Joseph Eayre begun his works in 1735, building on the banks of the Great Ouse, which afforded him ease of transport for both materials and product. The bells bear the names of three churchwardens – Joseph Margetts Pierson, John Collison and John Everitt.
Some of the most recent bells (2012) have been provided by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, which is Britain’s oldest foundry dating back to 1420.The Whitechapel foundry has produced many famous bells, including the Liberty bell and Big Ben.
Two bells added in 1984 were made by Royal Eijbouts, a Flemish foundry begun in 1872. This foundry produced the largest swinging bell in the world in 2006.